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When prop master Renata Ray’s mother was undergoing chemotherapy, Ray was filming in another state. When her mother reacted badly to the treatment, Ray was hundreds of miles away. When her mother lost her hair, Ray wished that she was home.
She is among many production workers who have had to spend time away from California in recent years because filming was leaving the state, forcing workers to decide between a paycheck and living where their hearts are.
“I was away when the surgeries became necessary. I was away when she was frightened but wouldn’t tell me,” Ray said, adding that she was grateful to work “but that price was high.”
She choked back tears and paused to compose herself on more than one occasion last Thursday, when she outlined her struggle in front of some of the state’s most powerful politicians at the TCL Chinese Theatre. They were assembled to celebrate the signing of AB 1839, the California Film and Television Job Retention and Promotion Act of 2014.
The film and TV tax credit was created in 2009, and AB 1839 extends the program for five years. It will offer approximately $330 million per year over five years — for a total of $1.65 billion — to filming projects in California. The bill is expected to help reverse the trend of “runaway production” while providing additional jobs for film workers in California.
“Mine was an impossible situation, and I pray that people won’t be forced to make such decisions in the future,” Ray said. “Today, with the signing of AB 1839 by Gov. Jerry Brown, we are here to make it so families can stay together.”
Over the voices of fracking protestors on the south side of Hollywood Boulevard, Brown said the signing signaled a great day for Hollywood and California. He said the state is “on the move,” and Hollywood is a “very important part of that.”
“We do it together,” he said, noting that film and TV tax credit bill was a bipartisan effort. “It’s a wonderful coming together that builds this powerful state.”
Brown said California is “The Golden State” but is home to the silver screen. He said it’s the place of dreams, where people flock to pursue a better life. The governor said the bill should build upon that, providing tens of thousands of employment opportunities.
“It’s all of us working together with a big dream, a big vision, the vision of California, a place of opportunity,” Brown added. “That’s what we’re investing in, and yes, it is the taxpayers’ money, but it’s taxpayers’ money going to build jobs for the future.”
Mayor Eric Garcetti said AB 1839 “levels the playing field” for the entertainment industry and the middle class jobs that the industry creates.
“They call the problem ‘runaway production.’ But let’s be clear — production and production jobs aren’t running away from California. They are being lured away by big financial incentives from other states,” he said. “Today, we fight back. …This legislation targets the heart and soul of this industry and our middle class — people who swing hammers, run cable and serve food on set so they can pay the bills and spend money in our economy.”
Assemblymen Mike Gatto (D-Los Angeles) and Raul Bocanegra (D-Pacoima) authored the legislation. Gatto said it stems from a town hall meeting two years ago, when a father came up to him with tears in his eyes and told Gatto about his experience being away from his family for 10 months while filming in Georgia.
“He was not a big star, nor was he a studio executive,” the assemblyman said. “He’s a middle-class worker.”
He said the legislation has always been about preserving good jobs for working families, which other states and countries have been “trying to steal away from us.” Gatto said he couldn’t assign a value on how much the bill will help the state.
“We hope this ushers in a new day for all of you who work in the entertainment industry,” he added.
Actor Warren Beatty spoke briefly, praising the bill and what it will do for California.
“I can only say thank you for having me here,” Beatty said. “Thank you for the legislation. …This means a lot.”
Senate Republic Leader Bob Huff (R-Diamond Bar) said other states realized that California’s tax policies were vulnerable, and they exploited it to the point that 23 primetime series were shot out of state.
“That’s almost criminal, but we figured it out,” he said. “I think Warren Beatty would agree with me that ‘Heaven Can Wait’, but good jobs can’t.”
Sen. Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles) said the state is strengthening its position as the entertainment capital of the world through the signing of AB 1839.
“If you’re in Louisiana, come back home,” he said. “If you’re in South Carolina, come back home. If you’re in Georgia and North Carolina, come back home to where you belong — back to California.”
Assembly Minority Leader Connie Conway (R-Tulare) said the bipartisan effort to pass the bill was complemented by film production workers telling their stories and stressing how significant the legislation was.
“That’s what makes it so special to me. That’s what makes it so important,” she said. “This is a great day for California.”
Steve Papazian, president of worldwide physical production for Warner Bros. Pictures, called the legislation “monumental.” He also said that it was “really well crafted,” since it targets opportunities that would offer a lot of employment.
“This is going to expand our opportunities, and hopefully we’ll bring more Academy Awards home to California,” Papazian said.
According to Garcetti’s office, the legislation should generate $12.7 billion in total aggregate direct spending by in-state projects, based on figures provided by the California Film Commission. The figure includes $4.05 billion in wages paid or incurred for services performed by qualified employees.
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